As I write these lines, the streets are being run over by bands of religious zealots, cars being torched, government installations ransacked, while hundreds of terrified and stranded citizens are just trying to make it to the safety of their homes. And all this madness, destruction, and orchestrated violence in the name of Allah and his most beloved Prophet (PBUH). Could there be a bigger irony, or tragedy?
As I write these lines, one federal minister with a dubious history and unexplained billions, stands unashamed before the country’s highest court, accused of unleashing his power and wrath on a dirt poor family. Their crime: a silly cow of theirs ‘daring’ to venture into the minister’s illegally occupied piece of state land and gulping down a couple of plants. So of course heavens had to fall ‘cause the poor family had the audacity to confront the gun toting guards of the minister’s arrogant son. Of course the Hafiz-Quran daughter of the poor man deserved to be thrown in the police lockup. Of course the men of the family had to be brought to their knees in the police station. Such crimes of insolence cannot be allowed to go unpunished in the holy land. How dare a poor family question your absolute right to do the wrong, right Mr. Swati?
As I write these lines, self anointed arbiters of Allah & Islam, calmly address shrieking frenzied mobs and openly call for the assassination of three judges of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice, who dared to order the release of a hapless poor Christian women falsely accused of blasphemy.
As I write these lines, the same self-proclaimed saviours of God and my country, also extoll army generals and soldiers to mutiny against the Chief of The Army Staff, Gen. Bajwa and throw him to the wolves. That the Prime Minister has also been branded as the ‘son of Jew’ just makes for a little aside.
In times like these, ordinary hacks like myself and any other with a morsel of a live conscience are supposed to act ‘prudently’ and hold their thoughts, to put away their pens, and dare not cry out loud. After all, nothing is quieter or colder than another fatality statistic. So while I write these lines, I take another look at the picture of my three sons and wonder what is the right thing to do. Talk and risk them losing a father, or stay silent and risk losing their future?
But it’s time we stopped living for the fear of dying. It’s time for everyone to speak up and say enough of this madness. Enough of running scared from the very lot that is itself scared of the country transforming into a truly welfare Islamic state, instead of a religious sham catering to the exploitative whims of a mighty few.
What the religious extremists lack in numbers, they compensate with violence and by instilling fear in the hearts of the ordinary God fearing hard working citizens, and more alarmingly in a state hesitant to impose its writ. But the choice is clear. Pakistan and religious extremism cannot coexist. For one to survive the other must perish. A nation of 220 million must not be allowed to become hostage to the hate and venom of organized agitators numbering a mere few hundred thousand.
As I write these lines, however I also see a glimmer of hope in the dark swirling clouds of smoke rising from burning cars and smoldering rubber tyres. Unlike his predecessors, Prime Minister Imran Khan dared to appear on national television and openly take on the perpetuators of violence against the country and the people. One hopes that meaningful actions will follow as its time to put the genie of religious hate back into the bottle.
As I write these lines, I wonder about the whereabouts of the idiotic-geniuses who nurtured these very elements during the faizabad dharna days. Will we ever see remorse on the faces of those who valiantly distributed bus fares and wanted accolades for negotiating the then government’s surrender agreement. If history has taught one thing is that once created, a certain kind of anomaly always devours its own master(s). Present has proven no different either. Every time non-state actors are employed to ‘sort out’ state affairs, the consequences will be eerily similar.
But all is not lost. Pakistan can still revert to the all-inclusive ideals of a true Islamic State where peace, equality, and rule of law prevails. Where instead of being killed, Pakistanis live happily in the name of Islam. It’s time for the state to act decisively and reclaim Pakistan and all that it stands for.
The valiant honourable judges have stood up in the name of justice and it’s time the government also forgot about political and administrative conveniences and took the extremism bull by the horns. It’s time all of us stopped being pragmatic and acted honestly foolish. It’s time to stand up and be counted or be forever lost in a meaningless existence.
As I write these lines, three lines from a beautiful poem by Mario de Andrade come to my mind. In My Soul Has A Hat he writes, “….We have two lives, and the second begins when you realize you only have one”. And that’s the essence of it all. We all have one life, so lets make it count, lets make it meaningful. Let’s not stop living for the fear of dying. Lets speak up!